New Dads Get the Post-Baby Blues Too

Becoming a parent can fill your heart with so many wonderful emotions and also anxieties -- especially once the baby arrives. Enter the infamous "baby blues." As much as society focuses on mothers-to-be and new moms, researchers now believe dads are at risk for baby blues too.

Advertisement

Just so that we're all on the same page here, it's important to note that "baby blues" differs from postpartum depression. With an estimated 70 to 80 percent of new moms experiencing baby blues, researchers at Canada's McGill University Health Center are now eyeing new papas -- and think we should too.

Its report in the American Journal of Men's Health reveals more than 13 percent of first-time dads -- including daddies-to-be -- showed signs of depression throughout their partner's pregnancy, which led experts to believe baby blues isn't just a "woman thing." Rounding up over 600 men, they questioned them on everything from financial stress to sleep and social support to try to pinpoint common areas of concern.

Honestly, I'm not surprised that men can and do experience baby blues. I'm happy many came forward, as most don't really like discussing their feelings. Then again, does anyone really ask a man about his emotional tank, and expect a straightforward answer for that matter?

One thing that I definitely think men don't have is a support system that allows them to come clean about any changes their new addition might cause. Think about it: At doctors' visits and baby classes, the focus is mostly on the mom-to-be and what dads can do to make her life easier. Obviously the ladies need extra TLC as we're the ones with the baby on board, but this study really has me thinking that we need to check up on our gents to make sure they're on the up-and-up when it comes to their emotional health. And seeing as researchers point out men can experience depressive symptoms linked to baby blues (they say it's not the same as depression, but still noteworthy) before the arrival of their child, it would definitely appear they're being overlooked.

More from The Stir: The Post-Baby Blues No One Talks About

In thinking about men and baby blues, I had to reach out to new dads to get their opinions -- especially since I'm not 100 percent sure some men understand what baby blues are (makes it easier to shrug off). Much to my surprise, a few came forward to have an Oprah moment with me, and discuss their feelings pre-baby and post-pregnancy (sorry, Dr. Phil, I got this).

"Becoming a father is a scary thing, and there's all types of stress that dads deal with that we're never vocal about," admits Almost Cool Dad Larry Hester. "You think about every dumb mistake you've made since childhood and wonder if you've got what it takes to raise this innocent mind." The former hip-hop journalist is now a proud stay-at-home dad to his toddler son Liam, and is quick to mention how most guys zip their lips when it comes to any baby-related stress, out of fear of being looked at as selfish. Then again, Larry says once you do realize you're stressed, you likely shrug off any feelings you might have. "Of course you don't think about it [baby blues] because the mother just pushed out a small person she was carrying for nine months."

Phil blames himself for his son Avery's being born premature. "I can't tell you how many nights I spent crying in the bathroom before he came," he admits. "I'll never forget the day my wife and I learned about the possibility of our child being born prematurely, and how much of a failure it made me feel. I felt helpless. I felt like I let my wife down." Phil and his wife have been married for years and experienced major setbacks trying to conceive. While their little boy Avery is fine (he's 4 and just as active as can be), the journey to get to where they are today hasn't always been smooth. "Looking back, I definitely think I had the baby blues -- even before my son arrived," says Phil. "As a man, you're taught to be the provider and the rock of your household. When things go wrong that you're unable to fix, it adds this stress you can't shake -- at least not until you make things right again."

And then, there's baby Ari's dad (he's still trying to figure out that whole sleep thing), who recalls how he felt after his 5-week-old daughter was born. "The first night that I arrived home after leaving my wife and newborn in the postpartum recovery room, a chill went down my spine," says Derek. "There was a distinct realization that our lives would never be the same, and I questioned whether I was truly ready for fatherhood."

More from The Stir: I Suffered From Postpartum Depression & Didn't Even Know It

"I'm not sure what this 'baby blues' thing is, but most people don't seem to care about the stresses a dad feels," said my husband.

With a 1 1/2-year-old and now 4-month-old, I've tried my best to keep up with his well-being. Having one child can be stressful enough, but dealing with a baby and a toddler would drive anyone nuts. Yet, my guy has always been my rock, taking both kids during my recovery period so I could rest and recoup. I can remember times when I told him to go out or do something solo so he could get a breather (to say he's stubborn is an understatement. We share that in common), to which he would always respond with, "No, not until you're okay."

The more dialogue we have about baby blues -- and how it can affect both a mother and a father -- the more we can hopefully help each other to get through it. In most cases, all it takes is seeking a little guidance, or having a system in place that allows you to open up. No one should have to suffer alone in silence.

 

 

Image via IMAGE LAGOON/shutterstock

Read More >